Pre-Production: The Neglected 'Soul' of Video Production

March 24, 2021
Published by
Keyy Productions Team

In the world of video production, there is a universal fervour of excitement surrounding filming and a natural appreciation of the editing process BUT poor little Pre-Production is often brushed aside as the annoying, nagging administrator of the creative process.

In reality, pre-production is the backbone of a great video. It's during pre-production that we build a concept that will not only logistically work, but also become a final product that actually meets your needs!

For those of you who are budget conscious, pre-production is also going to be your best insurance against the unnecessary problems that come with poor planning. Nothing screams 'you're going to need to add a couple of zeros to this project' faster than rushed or non-existent pre-production. (Check out our blog "5 Video Productions Mistakes That Will Cost You (Literally)" for some other cost-causing mistakes to avoid!)

So, what even is the Pre-Production phase of Video Production?

In our experience of working on hundreds of corporate video projects of all shapes and sizes, almost all of our biggest problems have stemmed from inadequate pre-production. But what actually is it?

Firstly, when we talk about pre-production we're talking about the first stage of the project AFTER you have said yes to a proposal or treatment from your production company and before filming begins.

If there are three stages to a typical video project, pre-production, production, and post-production, then pre-production is where you lay your foundations so that your creative vision can flourish. It's during pre-production that you'll work with your creative agency to develop the intentions, need, and rationale behind the project, as well as organise all of the details for the filming day.

Pre-production really is the soul of video production because without it, a production will lose direction and the final video will lose sight of its purpose.

5 Tips for the Most Effective Pre-Production

So, now you know that pre-production is important (fist pump!) but as a client, it can be tricky to know exactly where your responsibilities actually lie. Have no fear, below are five stellar tips to guide you through the pre-production process.

1. Lay Out the Steps

It's during this first step that a great production agency and an even greater producer will come into play. At the outset of every new project, as soon as that "Go" button has been pushed, you as the client should be provided with a list of key next steps for the whole pre-production process.

Although this list may not be comprehensive of everything you and the agency will be doing during pre-production, the list of the next steps should be as thorough as possible and include dates, descriptions, and a clear delineation of what you are responsible for and what the agency will be managing. We recommend getting the list in writing so that you can use the pre-production steps as a checklist and guide for the project.

Bonus side tip that many forget - you as the client WILL be involved in pre-production. Unless you've worked with your production agency for years and they are following a well-established formula, they will not be able to manage pre-production completely independently. Remember that a great pre-production process is collaborative.

2. Define Video Essentials

Before your production team was selected you should have already had in-depth chats about what you're looking to create and why.

Although your teams should already be on the same page, I always recommend kicking off pre-production by sitting down with the whole client team and relevant production team members to define the video essentials: audience, message, and tone.

These might seem a bit abstract and you may just want to dive into the nitty-gritty planning details but trust us, you want every practical decision you make during pre-production to be informed by these high-level goals.

3. Visualise Your Shoot and Outcomes

At this stage of the project, the production company should have already seen (and understood) any creative references you have. However, although the creative parameters of the project should already be mostly determined, references don't stop being relevant during pre-production. Personally, I love references and will encourage a client to share as many examples of what they do and don't like with me during pre-production so that I can use this to inform the planning of the overall shoot and shot list.

It is however important to understand that it is not the job of your production company to replicate someone else's work. Just like that 9th grade essay on Macbeth, "taking inspiration" from and directly copying what someone else has done, doesn't really fly when it comes to video.

What we recommend is using a balance of references and a project mood board to communicate your visual expectations for the finished product. Pinterest is a great way to collate images and visual references, and Canva also is a great tool with collaborative features that allow multiple people in your team to work on visual projects at the same time.

Visual cues are invaluable for any creative process and should help your production team create a shot list that is detailed and truly synced to what you're looking for.

4. Confirm the Nitty Gritty Details

Ahh the fun of organising minute details that can make or break the success of your project!

Location, parking, scripting, catering, actors, permits...depending on your project many of these details will be organised by your production company, however, you will absolutely be required to participate in the decisions and sign off on many elements of the production.

Your role may be as simple as saying 'yes, I agree with your choice of actor' or 'no, you cannot park in the CEO's spot for the day' but it may also be more involved and include you leading the process more than the production team. Again, your role in the nitty gritty planning should have been laid out during the first phase of pre-production.

5. Final Checks

By this stage, you'll be so close to having all of your pre-production squared away and the filming for your project should be just around the corner.

Your production team will have pulled together all the pre-production elements and provided you with a production brief that walks through all the important elements of the upcoming filming day. Everything from the schedule, to call sheet, scripting/interview questions and key messaging should be included in the production brief so at this point, it's your job to thoroughly read through the brief and approve everything.

Once the production brief is finalised it's time to lock down any elements of the pre-production that were your responsibility. Whether that's checking the boardroom you booked is still secure, ensuring your team members are briefed or packing specific props or documents, it never hurts to complete final check ups!


Video production's most important phase

In short, neglect the pre-production phase of the video production process at your own peril! Putting the time in to plan and get it right the first time will make sure the video content you create will be on brand, on time, and on budget.

To experience our approach to the entire video production process, get in touch to start your custom video proposal today.

By Bridget Murray

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